Patience spread her legs wider for the Doctor and tried to steady her breathing. She looked around the room for her husband before remembering that he wouldn't be there. The Doctor had asked him to leave so he wouldn't be able to hear.

"You were born to be silent," he told her after Raymund left. "Only I should ever hear you scream."

Which had angered her just enough that she hadn't screamed yet. And now, she realized, the worst of it was over. The Doctor was moving away from her, holding in his arms a bundle of pink-red flesh that wriggled and wailed. Patience permitted herself a quiet sob and a smile. The sound of her baby's crying varied tremendously, reassuring the mother that, unlike herself, her child had been permitted to have a tongue.

"A daughter," preened Doctor Manos, presenting her baby, clean and warm in a white blanket. Patience sat up a little taller and took his burden from him. As the little eyes blinked in the general direction of her face, she ran one hand over the tiny body. Two arms.. two legs.. ears and face fine.. ten toes... she fondled the wrinkly little hands and stopped. She counted again and looked up at the Doctor. He was smiling his beneficent smile. Everything was according to his plan.

Patience held out her own hand, palm flat, and gestured --the Doctor caught her fingers and closed them. "No signing," he said firmly. "If God wanted you to know sign language, I'd have taught it to you."

"Questions," he went on almost gleefully, "have never been yours to ask. Now wait, my dear, while I get your husband."

Raymund entered the room eagerly. He bent over the bed and marveled at the sweet silence of mother and child. Patience studied his face, and jiggled the baby slightly. Discomfitted, the little one began to cry. Raymund frowned and poked his finger into her mouth. Patience redirected his questing and watched him note the empty knuckle on each wee hand.

"Why?" He demanded to know, "Why only eight fingers? I wanted a son to play catch with me. Why shouldn't he be like his mother? I don't want a boy who talks back."

"Want, don't want," crooned the Doctor. "You want too much, Raymund. Your daughter" --he punctuated this correction with a slight pursing of his lips -- "will not want so much. She will not point out her desires, nor will she grab for more than is hers. So is the Will and the Teaching of God."

The Doctor smiled again as Raymund and Patience bent their heads together and said "Amen."

"And her name," he went on, "will be Less."

Patience woke before dawn. The ethereal light made her feel cold, so she pulled an extra blanket up over herself and her husband. As she tucked the edge under his chin, Raymund stirred and, holding her hand against his chest, turned away, wrapping her around him like another extra blanket.

Patience rested her cheek on his shoulder and looked down at her husband's bent head. Raymund sighed at the extra warmth and setted back to sleep. His blonde hair would need cutting soon.

Ray-Mund. The shining boy his parents, both of them dark-haired, were given to bring to earth in recognition of their stolid support of everything the Doctor asked of the small community. More monitors, more power, more space for his research. All for the Glory, as they liked to say. Patience sometimes heard them mutter it as she nodded hello. They thought her silence made her the perfect wife for Ray, but it made them uncomfortable in person.

Not so Raymund. He lay serenely, wrapped in her love and comfort. Is that what I am here? she wondered, a comforter? She didn't doubt her love for Ray, but she wasn't sure where to find her self in their relationship.

A chirruping cry floated out of the nursery, and motherly responsibility excused her from her morning cuddle duties. Feeling a bit perverse, she carried the hungry babe back to the bedroom before ending her complaints with the sought-after nipple. Ray rolled over, unappreciative of the rude awakening, but found nothing to say to the nursing pair on the side of the bed. Patience sat with her back to him, pretending not to notice she'd caused a disturbance.

I will think of you as Lyssa, she thought to her daughter, and they will not know, as they have never known what I think.

Even after Lyssa was full and sleepy again, Patience held her close, wondering at her own sudden sadness.

Chiara arrived just as Raymund was leaving for the plant. He was wearing his managerial suit and tie and he greeted her with his managerial voice, a brisk "Good morning" that echoed with false cheer. Chiara returned the greeting in kind and shut the door behind him. They were polite to each other but Ray was never quite comfortable with her. It was hard for most people not to be discomfited by Chiara's appearance. Her full name was Chiaroscura - her features were a bizarre mix of darks and lights inherited from her black father and white mother. Manos had made the colors in her skin and hair blotch instead of melding and her eyes were different colors: one blue, one brown. Ray couldn't understand that it was just these contrasts that his wife loved in her best friend.

Chiara headed on into the kitchen. Patience was sitting with her monitor turned toward the table. The baby was on the table in a rocker, trying to watch her mom draw bright colors on the screen.

"What's her name?" asked Chiara, moving in close to tickle her belly. Patience checked to make sure 'god's camera' couldn't see her screen from its corner.

Chiara grinned and stuck her tongue out a little between her teeth, just like she had when they were kids. Patience had always gone around the rules. Sitting in the classroom at terminals that weren't supposed to be able to send messages to each other, she'd figured out how to write to Chiara's device.

At recess, Chiara swung over to where Patience stood quietly with her back to the wall.

"you're funny," she said. "You're all quiet on the outside, but unquiet within. I like you."

And so it had begun. In high school they were split up. The teachers had noticed that Patience was good with computers, so while Chiara was trained in arts and crafts and literature, Patience was taught how to manage the network and write web pages. She wasn't supposed to learn how to express herself, but someone needed to transcribe the teachings and records of the community to the web, to teach its history and beliefs to the community members and to brag to the outside about how happy they were, living God's Glory. The girls saw each other in sewing and cooking classes. Later Patience figured out how Dr. Manos went around the filters he'd set up and did research on the world web, and then she, too, could study anything she wanted. Managing the system didn't take nearly as much time as the council thought it did, so she had lots of time to learn about genetics and world events and even read some articles from the outside about their community. Only her best friend knew that she did these things.

she typed now, "Sure! We'll do good by this girl." Chiara's voice softened, "She's beautiful." Patience stood up and hugged her tight. The Doctor wouldn't let Chia have a child. He said it was because her art was irreverent but Patience told her it was because he didn't know how to remix her genes. She'd seen queries about it he'd posted on the world web. She let Chiara go before they both got too sentimental, and sat back down at the keyboard.

"Why don't you?"

Patience started a couple of responses, erasing each one after a couple letters, before giving up and staring at her friend. Chiara was giving her this fierce look. Somehow her brown eye could look stern but caring at the same time her blue eye was looking angry and reproachful. She'd pushed for a long time for Patience to "talk" to her husband.

"Well, you think about it. I gotta get to the studio. Doc wants the kiddos to have a nursery full of flowery icons of God's love by tomorrow morning. After that gets done I'll sleep, and then I'll come by and see you." She turned and rubbed the baby's belly gently, "and I'll come see you too!"

"Take care."

Patience waved at her retreating back and thought about things said and unsaid. Lyssa whined a little then began to cry.

Raymund came home tense and unhappy. As he sat down to dinner he frowned briefly to see the monitor still turned toward the table, then proceeded to complain about how the people at work were undermining his authority. When that didn't get him any sympathy, he launched into a description of how hard it was to requisition a new chair.

Patience rocked the baby in her rocker for a minute, then turned to the computer. Ray paused to watch her, confused by this strange behavior. Patience opened a text editor and typed for a minute, then switched to a web browser to display her words in large bold letters.

Startled, Raymund looked at the camera in the corner, as if to appeal to someone that his wife wasn't supposed to be criticising him. When he looked back at the screen it had changed.

A bitter smile cracked across Ray's face as he leaned to take the baby's hand.

"You call this perfect?" He shook the little hand at her, then pointed to the missing knuckle and shook his head. "I'll be the laughingstock at work. All my talk about how you were cooking up a new softball player for the team. I'll get no respect."

-Ray glanced at the camera again, realizing now that it couldn't see the monitor.

Raymund looked. Lyssa was holding tightly onto the finger he'd used for pointing. She was looking back at him. He moved his hand back and forth a little, but her grip was firm.

"Hey!", he said, a little shy, "look at that."

Patience moved close behind him, rubbing his shoulders softly as he played with their baby. Raymund glanced back at her quickly, then looked back down.

"you know," he said, trying to use his casual manager's voice, "You've never told me before that you love me."

She hugged him then, wrapping her arms around his chest from behind, her head next to his. They regarded their daughter together.
Just you wait, little girl, thought Patience, When you grow up you'll find your mom has a lot to say.

by Netmouse